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A History of Beer and Brewing

Ian Spencer Hornsey

Hornsey, Ian Spencer; Royal Society of Chemistry (publ));

A History of Beer and Brewing

Royal Society of Chemistry, 2003, 742 pages

ISBN 0854046305, 9780854046300

topics: |  food | drink | beer | history

This is the a scholarly (though Britain-centric) account of the history of
alcoholic drinks made from partially germinated (or masticated) grain,
a.k.a. beer.

A seal from Tepe Gawra, northern Iraq, showing the earliest evidence for beer in Mesopotamia (ca. 4000 BCE). Two persons are shown drinking beer from a jar through bent straws. p.77. On the right, Sumerian cuneiforms. (a,b,c) are variants for KAS (beer): kas, kas with spout, and kas with beer. (d) is SIM, an unidentified (possibly flavouring) ingredient added to beer.

Traces the origins of beer in ancient Egypt (documented since 5000 BCE) and the even older tradition in ancient Iraq (documented since 4000 BCE). Documents the brewing processes, the materials, and the drinking culture from Egypt, Iraq/Iran, Turkey (Phyrgia, Lydia, Thrace, Urartu, Galatia), Armenia, Syria, Palestine (Phoenicia), N. Europe (Urnfield, Celts), nomadic groups in the Caucasus (Scythians, Cimmerians), as well as the sake culture of Japan, before moving to Europe in the middle ages and beer in Britain. The culture may have come to western Europe with the Celts (pron. kelts), whose empire, in the 3d c. BCE, extended from England to Spain to Turkey. They may have been exposed to it in Turkey (Galatia) and carried the idea westwards. ... it is highly probable that the Celts brought beer, and the knowledge of brewing to the British Isles. Galatia was a territory [centered at Ankara, Turkey]. The Celtic tribes arrived there in the years immediately following 278 BC, the year that they crossed the Hellespont [and] wreaked havoc on their way through western Anatolia. Subsequently, brewing spread in the British Isles and other parts of Europe. Alehouses and taverns proliferated in the 17th century, and a number of texts came up, along with legislation dealing with adulteration of beer. Large changes in how we produce and consume beer came after the industrial revolution.

ch 1: Beginnings

Commercial sake is pasteurised and it is interesting to note that a
pasteurisation technique was first mentioned in 1568 in the Tamonin-nikki,
the diary of a Buddhist monk, indicating that it was practised in Japan some
300 years before Pasteur. In China, the first country in East Asia to develop
anything resembling pasteurisation, the earliest record of the process as
said to date from 1117. p.30

ch 2: Beer in Egypt

Beer was a popular drink in ancient Egypt.  The Egyptian hieroglyph for
"brewer", fty, is an image of a person bent over a vat-like object,
possibly mashing moist grains through a sieve.  Subsequent images of
consumption also abound.

 image of a servant girl pouring what is surmised to be beer.

Beer culture in ancient Iraq

During the early years of the 20th c. it came to be realized that Egypt was
not the oldest beer-producing culture, but that it may have been Sumer,
adjacent to the area which is understood to have first undergone cereal
domestication.  Evidence of brewing goes back to recorded history with very
comprehensive records.  Temple records from excavations in Lagash in 1877
indicate monthly issues of barley and ememer for brewing.

Mari: circular city on the Euphrates (founded in early 3d m. BC),
controlled the river traffic between Iraq and Syria.  The palace with 260
rooms, covering 2.5ha is the best preserved from the Bronze age, and has
yielded more than 20K cuneiform tablets, some detailing materials for
brewing.  Actual drinking of beer is shown in a sealing from Tepe Gawra in N
Iraq, ca. 4000 BCE.  It appears to have been a popular drink, consumed by all
social classes incl. women.

Brewers were employed by the state temple [compare monasteries of Europe],
and were highly regarded members of the community, some of them were known to
have owned slaves.  Remuneration for a brewer was usu. in the form of land,
livestock, or barley, and many other workers were also paid w beer, or
materials for making it.  During Ur III dynasty, a monthly ration of barley
was issued to labourers, who would brew their own (Neumann 1994).
The mesopotaminas were also wine-makers and drinkers, having greater
rates of conumption thatn the notedly bibulous Persians. " p.78

Ancient Iraq: Sumer, Akkad, and Assyria

The area around the Tigris-Euphrates with the ancient kingdoms of Sumer, are
home to Akkad, Babylonia and Assyria.  [Mesopotamia, Greek for "between two
rivers", first appears in Histories of Polybius (~mid 2 c. BCE).  Sumer is
an early ethno-linguistic group from 3400 BCE - among the principal city
states were Ur, Eridu, Lagash and Uruk, each ruled by a separate king.  The
spoken language is unrelated to any other linguistic group; was recorded in
cuneiform script, archaic versions of which already appear by 4th mill. BCE
(Uruk and Jemdet Nasr periods).  Around 2300 BCE Sumer was incorporated into
the Akkadian empire.  Babylonia is the name given to S. Mesopotamia from
around 1790 BCE to the 0 BCE.  Its capital Babylon is abt 80km S of Baghdad.
The Babylonian language and written tradition is dominated by Sumerian and
Akkadian, although they belong to completely diff language groups and are therefore
easy to distinguish and recognise, though written with the same system of

In the late 7th c. the expansion of ancient Iraq into Syria-Palestine clashed
with Egyptian interests there.

Earliest Breweries

An early dynastic (3100-2686 BC) brewery discovered at Lagash shows a tablet
labelled e-bappir, and has a number of vats.

Yaya's brewery:
A later brewery owned by "Yaya" at Tell Hadidi from 15th c. BC (Gate 1988),
has seven rooms around a courtyard. Finds include carbonised grain, grinding
stones, several large storage vessels, (unmoveable, upto 500 liters) and
small storage vessels (25-175 l).  Also a strainer and several vessels with
basal perforations, which may have been mash-tuns (Akkadian namitzu).
   _mash-tun_ (pronounced "mash ton") is a vessel used in the mashing
   process to convert the starches in crushed grains into sugars, e.g. in
   a Scotch distillery.]

Brewing methods both in Egypt and Iraq were linked to bread.

Hymn to Ninkasi

There was an extensive beer culture in present day Iraq and Iran dating
back to earlier than 4th millenium BCE.  Beer was usually made by
fermenting bread, and what is claimed to be a recipe was found in an
ancient tablet.  The goddess of brewing was Ninkasi, and a clay tablet
dating from ~1900BCE bears the ancient Sumerian cuneiform text known as
Hymn to 'Ninkasi:

tablets bearing the hymn to Ninkasi (from

The original transliteration and a scholarly translation is available at
the University of Oxford's Sumerian studies corpus),
but here is my simplified translation omitting the refrains:

	you are the one handling dough with a big shovel,
	mixing in a pit, the bappir with honey,

	you are the one baking bappir in the big oven,
	you are the one ordering the piles of hulled grain,

	you are the one watering the malt set on the ground,
	scaring off interlopers [3] with your noble dogs

	you are the one soaking the malt in a jar,
	the waves rise, the waves fall.
		the waves rise, they fall.

	you are the one spreading the cooked mash on large reed mats...
	a coolness comes over them.

	with both hands you hold the great sweet wort,
	brewing it with honey and wine

	the fermenting vat, with its pleasant bubbling sound
	you place on the collector vat. [Lahtan]

	you pour the filtered beer from the collector vat,
	like the onrush of Tigris and Euphrates.

Sumerian brewing terminology

A study of grain production in Mesopotamia has suggested (Hrozny 1913),
that beer was the main product made from grain.   Forbes (1955) estimates
that some 40% of the harvest was used for making beer.  The
vocabulary is rich in
suggestions of the same.  A tablet (numbered XXIII in the lexical series)
was originally transliterated by
Hartman and Oppenheimer (1950), who suggest that:

     Through more than three millennia, an extensive and complicated
     nomenclature (in Sumerian and Akkadian) was evolved by the brewers...
     Technical processes that are apparently quite simple (in the eyes of a
     philologist) - e.g. the mixing of crushed materials into a liquid, are
     subject to exceedingly exact terminological differentiations according
     to the nature or size of the material, methods of mixing, numerical
     reactions, timing, special circumstances, etc.  This holds true also
     for the designations given to the manifold methods applied to the
     techniques in which the malted grain was treated, to the ways in which
     the fermentation process was introduced and regulated, and so
     forth. ...  Certain manipulations often gave their name to the beers
     that were their product.  Thus we have a number of beers which take
     their names from such specific activities of the brewer as: pasu,
     haslat, LABku, hiku, mihhu, billitu, etc.  Further complications are
     caused by regional and diachronic differences in this nomenclature
     which the peculiar nature of the cuneiform source material accentuates
     to a large extent.

Sumerian lexicon

bappir (akkadian bappiru): thick loaves of beer-bread, which would be
		mashed and fermented to make beer.  But there is some
		controversy on this; it may have meant any malted grain
		(p.84) Cuneiform logogram for bappir linked the logogram
		for kas (beer jar) with ninda (bread)
dida (akkadian billatu):  a sweet wort, possibly prepared from the
		mash by squeezing
gakkul:  vessel used in fermenting that was mostly kept closed.
		Appears to have acquired a sense of mystery in the literary
		tradition.  Also designates a part of the human eye, possibly
		the eyeball.  As mentioned in the Hymn, may refer to a jar
		with a ball stopper that could be lifted; this would be ideal
		in a fermentation vat to let the CO2 escape.
gestin:  grape, raisin or wine.  sumerian wine.
kas (pron. kash, Akkadian shikaru): beer, written KAS'.  In early
		babylonian was a drink made from barley, Neo-Babylonian was
	        enriched with emmer or dates.  Appears from the very earliest
	        proto-cuneiform writings (from 4th c. BC).
lu.kas.ninda: literally "man of the beer-loaf".
munu : malt prepared by soaking the barley and then drying it in the
		sun and in the kiln.
namzuu:  vessel used for brewing beer
sim : most likely an unidentified additive added before baking
		bappir.  May also refer to oven used in heating wort.
		ku.sim: granary administrator
sun:  the liquid formed by mixing bappir loaves and other malt into
		water.  Some sort of wort [a malt, ready for fermentation]
titab: the cooked mash resulting from heating and mixing the sun.
zizan :  a grain (modern "emmer") - a two-grained wheat occasionally
		added to bappir in the malt

The idea of yeast as a living organism

[Moving on to modern times, I found the scientific history of yeast
 particularly interesting.  The idea of yeast as a living organism took
 some time to come about - it does look like a rather inert mass.  The
 fight was between those who saw the yeast as alive (plant? animal?), and
 others who claimed they were a mere chemical.]

While it was known that air was needed in fermentation, its specific role was
unknown.  Charles Cagniard-Latour (1777-1859), a French mechanical engineer
in 1835 observed yeast sporulation under the microscope:

	a small cell formed on the surface of a yeast globule; the two cells
	remained attached to each other for some time before becoming two
	separate globules.

but he thought it was some kind of a plant because of its lack of motility

In an 1837 book, the German zoologist Theodore Schwann first characterized
yeast as a living fungus, and named it Zuckerpilz or sugar fungus (Schwann
also discovered the Schwann cells which constitute the myelin sheath of axons
in nerve cells).  The genus of fungus including yeast is today called
saccharomyces, a term which originated from Zuckerpilz.  Schwann understood
the yeast's role as that of taking the nutrition it needs from the solution,
leaving the remaining elements to form alcohol.

The German botanist Friedrich Kuetzing also proposed yeast as a vegetable
organism, stating that:

	It is obvious that chemists must now strike yeast off the roll of
	chemical compounds since it is not a compound but an organized body,
	an organism.

Thus there was a turf war between botanists and chemists.

Leading chemists of the day, including the Swedish count Jons Jacob
Berzelius, described as "the arbiter and dictator of the chemical world",
vehemently opposed the position, stating that he regarded yeast as "being no
more a living organism than was a precipitate of alumina".  Others chemists
opposing this view included the "biochemist" Justus Liebig (1803-1873) who
was an editor of the Annalen der Pharmacie when the
whose journal published a scandalous article by F Woehler
(1800-1882),  claiming the yeast to be eggs which
develop into microscopic animals when placed in the sugar solution.  Details
of the anatomy of these animals were reported based on "observation",
including their intestinal tract, were also
presented.  It was not until Pasteur (who had to argue off Liebig) that
yeast was known as a fungus.



Chapter 1: The Beginnings

   How Might Fermented Beverages Have Originated?		  1
   Some General Definitions and Musings				  9
   References							 30

Chapter 2 : Ancient Egypt

Introduction							 32
The Grains							 37
Grain Cultivation and Processing				 41
Beer as Compensation for Labour					 43
Beer Export and Import						 44
Bouza								 46
Brewing Technology						 48
Brewery Sites							 51
Information from the Artistic Record				 53
The “Folkloristic” Approach to Interpretation of Ancient
	Egyptian Brewing					 56
Beer Flavouring						 	 61
Fermentation							 63
The Role of Women						 64
The Contributions of Dr Samuel					 64
References							 72

Chapter 3 : The Ancient Near East

Introduction 							 75
The Role of Beer in Society					 77
The Terminology and the Techniques				 78
The Evidence for Breweries and Brewing Equipment		 79
Types of Beer							 81
Methodology							 83
Drinking Through Straws, etc.					 86
The Goddess Ninkasi						 87
Notes from the Hymn to Ninkasi					 89
Chemical Evidence for Beer					 91
A Question of Primacy						 92
The Grains							 96
Flavouring							103
Banqueting, Over-indulgence and Retribution			104
References							113

Chapter 4 : Other Ancient Beer-drinking Peoples

Introduction						 	117
Israel and Palastine						119
The Land of the Hatti						125
Phrygia								128
Lydia								130
Cicilia								131
Armenia								132
Syria								133
Thrace								134
The Phoenicians							136
Galatia and the Celts						139
Urartu								140
Mitanni								142
The Scythians							143
The Cimmerians							148
The Urnfield Society						150
The Celts							151
Evidence for Celtic Brewing					161
References							163

Chapter 5 : The British Isles and Europe

Introduction							165
Cereals as Markers for Brewing Activity				169
Neolithic Britain and Northwest Europe: the Beginnings of
	Agriculture						172
The Passage of Farming Across Europe				181
Farming vs Gathering						185
A Short Interlude in Southeast Europe				190
Why Did Agriculture Spread Across Europe?			191
Did Neolithic Britons Brew?					193
The Bronze Age and the Culture of the Beaker			199
Evidence of Bronze Age Brewing					210
The Iron Age							211
Roman Britain							225
Anglo-Saxon Britain						233
Did Beor Equate to Beer?					251
Ireland Before Guinness						259
The Early Days of Brewing in Holland				268
References							276

Chapter 6: From the Norman Conquest to the End of the Tudors

William the Conqueror 	     	      	     	    		282
The First Regulations						284
Henry III and the Assize of Bread and Ale			292
The Formation of the Guilds					296
Domestic Ale Consumption Around the 15'h Century		302
Hops								303
The Beer Trade with Holland					314
More about Hops and Beer					317
Measures to Combat Dishonesty					321
Beer vs Ale							323
Henry VIII and the Alewife					326
Brewsters							330
A Tudor Miscellany						333
Elizabeth I							346
Brewing in Tudor Times - Some Details				351
References							361

Chapter 7 : The Start of Large-scale Brewing

The Stuarts							365
The Use of Coal							372
Charles I and Oliver Cromwell					375
Commercial (Common) Brewers					383
Mumm								387
Gin (Madame Geneva)						391
The End of “Medievalism”					392
Gervase Markham							395
The Onset of Brewing Science; Lavoisier et al.			401
Adulteration of Beer						416
Some Early Brewing Texts					421
James Baverstock and the First Brewing Instruments		424
Steam Power							437
Big is Beautiful						440
The Need for Attemperation					451
James Prescott Joule						451
Refrigeration							462
Some Technological Improvements					469
Taxes on Everything						472
The Golden Years of Brewing Science				477
References							482

Chapter 8 : Some Beer Styles and Some Breweries

Porter								485
Bavarian Beer							508
Potato Beer							514
Heather Ale							515
Pale Ale							523
Devonshire White Ale						530
Gruit: The Major Beer Flavouring, Prior to the Hop, in
        Many Parts of Europe					534
City of London Brewery						538
Truman’s Brewery						540
Golden Lane Brewery						551
Courage								554
References							565

Chapter 9 : The 20fh Century

The Lull Before the Storm					568
The Storm: 1914-1918						579
The Sign of Things to Come					589
Bottled Beer							593
The Story of British Lager					604
The Origins of the “Amber Nectar”				620
Brewing Becomes Really Scientific				627
Brewery-conditioned Beer					670
CAMRA - A Response to Brewery-conditioned Beer			678
The “Big Six”							684
Beer and Health							699
References							709

Appendix 1 : Timescale for Europe, Western Asia and Egypt           716
Appendix 2 : Ancient names for parts of Europe and the Near East    718
Appendix 3 : Sketch of working brewery of the ISh century	    719
Appendix 4 : John Taylor: “The Water Poet”			    720
Appendix 5 : Section through brewery showing layout		    722
Appendix 6 : Summary of brewing processes			    723
Appendix 7 : Explanation of chronological signs			    724

Other books

For an easier and more colourful read, look up Brian Glover's World Encyclopedia of Beer, (see Beer: An Illustrated History for a summary.
Also, The Barbarian's Beverage: A History of Beer in Ancient Europe
is worth a look for Europe centered analysis.

amitabha mukerjee (mukerjee [at-symbol] gmail) 2011 Nov 14